A QUIET PLACE.

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Marco Beltrami, it seemed was the composer to go to if you wanted a horror score, but his music for horror films is not all crash, bang and bump in the night material, just take a listen to the music for the SCREAM series, there is some really romantic and highly thematic cues within them, at times the composer reaching near operatic heights. Over the past ten years or so Beltrami has become one of Hollywood’s A listers in the composer world. But it seemed that his scores although very good were very few and far between and also never really got the praise that they deserved, if you like I was there at the start of his career you would have sampled grand sounding themes for films such as THE FACULTY, or his Morricone influenced score for the re-make of 3-10 TO YUMA and coming right up to date his hauntingly beautiful and disturbing music for THE SNOWMAN, again a score that contains a number of nods to Morricone which excites, and tantalises. One of the composer’s recent assignments is for the tense horror thriller A QUIET PLACE, and the composer in my opinion has returned to is top form on this outing into darkness and sinister goings on.

 

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The score, is not one of his most thematic, which is I suppose given the storyline is something that we expect and accept. But saying this there are little pockets of respite where the composer treats us to some tender and melodic interludes, performed on fragile sounding piano and endearing and somewhat melancholy strings. But these are just little glimpses of light within a score that is certainly dark, foreboding and downright malevolent in its overall sound and atmosphere. The composer utilises a growling or rumbling sound in many of the cues, that is unsettling, there are also driving and raw savage strings throughout, which at times seem to slither into the proceedings and then erupt into a sinewy and sharp sounding persona.

 

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Track number 13, A QUIET MOMENT, is a charming melody initially, but one can hear in the background a rising tension created by a shadowy sounding drone effect, which is underlining the quieter part of the composition performed on piano, the music and musical sounds that Beltrami has created for the score, are in a number of ways innovative and original, but at certain points it does descend into a bit of a free for all of sinister and dark atonal passages that are frenzied and chaotic. It is however a commanding score that is powerful and effecting, it demands that you listen, and is cleverly orchestrated, with percussive elements heightening the tension, and jagged sounding brass adding to that tension. Maybe not one for the faint hearted or lovers of romanticism, but still a score that I am sure will be enjoyed by followers of the horror genre and the music of Marco Beltrami. Check it out,,,, if you dare….

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DRAMMI GOTICI (GOTHIC DRAMAS).

Notes for the DRG release.   The CD  was released in 1999.

These were my first ever sleeve notes, I have edited them slightly to omit info that is now known by many.

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Composer Ennio Morricone began his film music career back in the 1960’s. Scoring movies in those days as life itself was in my opinion much simpler and straightforward. Even now many years after he scored his first movie it is probably the music from the decade of the 1960’s that most people associate with the Maestro. It was after all a period of intense creative out for the composer, who was fashioning innovative and highly original pieces it seemed every day. The composer these days does not apparently like to talk of the early days of his career when he was writing scores to Spaghetti westerns. Morricone was responsible for penning the scores for approximately twenty westerns from 1961 through to 1969. The landmark scores being Sergio Leones DOLLAR trilogy A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY. The latter gaining international acclaim and popularity via the many cover versions that were recorded. As the decade of the 1970’s dawned the appeal and attraction of the Western all’a Italiana seemed to take something of a dip and made way for the likes of Sci Fi movies, Spy thrillers and such like. Directors who had been involved with the Italian made western were moving on and branching out into genres such as Horror, Giallo and Romance. Movies about organised crime, the Mafia, gangsters etc were now becoming much in demand and as always Italian film makers stepped up to deliver movies with outrageous but entertaining plots and somewhat quirky storylines. Morricone contributed to many of these productions, it it true to say that the composers output during the decades of the 60’s and 70’s verged upon the unbelievable, it seemed that his name was every where and a new movie was in the cinemas on a daily basis Films such as THE SICILIAN CLAN, CITTA VIOLENTA, METTI UNA CERA A SENA, LA CASSE, A MAN TO RESPECT the list is endless. It was also at this time that Morricone collaborated with film maker Dario Argento, the composers unique style and creativity being well suited to the fraught and at times perversely tense movies that came from the mind of the Master of the Macabre.

 

IL GATTO NOVA CODA and 4 MOSCHE DI VELLUTO GRIGO being just two examples. It is true to state that Argento changed the way in which horror movies were made, and Morricone also influenced a generation or two of composers who still today practice what Morricone began.

 

 

 

The music on this compact disc, is taken from a television series entitled GOTHIC DRAMAS, this was a series that was produced in 1977, and directed by Georgio Bandini, the series was aired by RAI UNO and achieved mild success at the time of its screening. Morricone had worked in TV before GOTHIC DRAMAS, but the Maestro was essentially involved in music for the big screen as opposed to writing for the television. However, during the 1970’s he was responsible for writing the end titles music for the American TV western THE VIRGINIAN which had undergone something of a facelift and was re-titled THE MEN FROM SHILO. The composer also scored the mini series MOSES THE LAWGIVER in 1975, which became essential viewing throughout Europe. The production was quite lavish for television, with companies from England and Italy collaborating to bring it fruition, Burt Lancaster starred in the title role.

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Morricone also worked on LA MANI SPORCHE (DIRTY HANDS) for TV, which was directed by Elio Petri, who Morricone had worked with before, most notably on INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION in 1970, and continued to write for the small screen with the score for BLOODLINE, which was an adaptation of the novel by Sidney Sheldon, it boasted an international all-star cast, which included James Mason and Audrey Hepburn, and THE PRINCE OF THE DESERT, which included cues that were originally destined for John Huston’s THE BIBLE which Morricone was asked to score, his music never being used. Although Morricone was just as busy during the 1970’s as he was in the previous decade, the movies he worked on were not as memorable apart from the obvious titles, such as DUCK YOU SUCKER, NOVECENTE and TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA. The composer scored mainly French and Italian movies during this period, but occasionally ventured into writing the soundtracks for American productions such as DAYS OF HEAVEN, THE EXCORCIST ll-THE HERETIC and ORCA KILLER WHALE.

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These however were not huge box office attraction and have only in recent years been appreciated for their attributes, good or bad. Many of the films that Morricone worked on were not shown outside of Italy, but the soundtrack albums still sold well, with collectors purchasing them simply because the music was by Ennio Morricone and not because they had even heard the music and liked it. GOTHIC DRAMAS was split into four episodes, these went under the titles of KAISERSTRASSE, which was based on stories by Hans H Ewers. MA NON E! UN VAMPIRO? (BUT IS SHE A VAMPIRE) Which was constructed around a Sicilian fable written by Luigi Capuana; LA CASSE DELLA STREGHE (THE HOUSE OF WITCHES) based upon three works by H.P LOVECRAFT and DIARIO DI UN PAZZO (DIARY OF A MADMAN) which was an adaptation from the works of Gogol.

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The scores that Morricone created for the series cannot really be described as being rich in thematic content or filled with lush musical passages, on the contrary the Maestro wrote a largely atonal score for each episode, it also took on the guise of a somewhat modernist and slightly Avant Garde sound and style, which can be heard in the concert music of the Maestro. Morricone produced an interesting and original set of soundtracks for the series, each one different, but at the same time containing a sound and distinct musical persona that we associate with the composer. The music was as complex and perplexing as the scenes and stories being acted out on screen, underlining and punctuating each sinister and heart stopping moment. But as always there are a handful of less fraught pieces, which act as a calming interlude in a plethora of malevolent cues. These include Track number 2, LA STRADA DELLA FOLLIA, a track from KAISERSTRASSE, the part of the score opens with an enchanting and mesmerising choir, which has a childlike sound to it, the voices being complimented and augmented by the subtle use of harp that is plucked delicately sensually, creating an atmosphere that is warm and safe. The voices soften and eventually melt away, leaving the harp to perform solo the central theme that the choir began. Morricone is a master at his craft and is known for scoring moments in a movie that can be disturbing or violent with a light almost delicate touch, thus allowing the audience to have no warning of what is about to happen until the images show this, it then being too late and the audience having been drawn in and given a false sense of security by the music are shocked even more, giving the scene maximum impact and effect.
Also, within the score for KAISERSTRASSE the composer utilises a music box effect, FUORI DALLA REALTA, this is a simple melody, that is embellished by the use of voices, together the two elements are angelic in their initial sound, but at the same time the simplicity and subtlety conjure up a sense of unease. KAISERSTRASSE also includes a barrel organ effect, or maybe a hurdy-gurdy sound, which if I am correct most would associate with a circus or fun fair, but in the hands of Morricone it takes on a more sinister and evil persona, suggesting to anyone listening to the recording that all is probably not well, or as it should be. The effect is recorded with an echo, so it becomes even more of a threatening and foreboding sound, Morricone again is a master at this type of scoring. ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST for example, the harmonica was up until the release of Leone’s masterpiece considered as being a happy and jaunty sounding instrument played around campfires where cowboys told stories and thought of a home on the range. But, again in the hands of Morricone, it is a pre cursor of a gunfight, an announcement of death a shady and frightening sound.

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Track number 5, on KAISERSTRASSE is harrowing and icy sounding piece, PIOGGIA being performed by harpsichord which undulates in and out of the composition, creating a spidery and otherworldly effect, this is underlined and laced with short sharp stabs and fleeting notations performed by woodwind and strings that are fused with a chiming effect, together they create an eerie sound that is not only un-nerving but one that evokes a mood of desperation and apprehension. The second score that is represented on the recording is from MA NON E! UN VAMPIRO?, this section opens with a theme that I am told opened each of the episodes, this instalment is the only one out of the four that has any background information available, so maybe this was the most popular of the quartet? A gentleman, Giorgio, marries a widow and everything as they say is as it should be, the couple have a child, but the boy becomes ill wasting away as if drained of life itself, then the widows dead husband returns from the grave, and it is clear he is the cause of the child’s illness. Giorgio sends for a friend Mongeri who is a scientist that dabbles in vampire hunting! Mongeri dispatches the dead husband by burning him and everything returns to normal, then Mongeri meets a widow and marries and the scenario begins again. The music for this episode is a mixture of styles that include chaotic string performances, choral work and atonal sounds and stabs, but there is also some fragile and beautifully crafted cues for solo violin, violin that is flawlessly performed by Dino Asciolla, who Morricone had turned to before and also continued to work with, Asciolla performed the stunning violin solos for the score to the RED TENT in 1969. The performer is also featured in the third score HOUSE OF WITCHES, his performances being fused with chimes, plucked harp, driving tense strings and choir, that are in turn further embellished by harpsichord, solo voice and the sound od a female soprano gently exhaling combined with a tinkling effect that makes the listener literally shudder.

MORRICCONE

 

The fourth score, DIARIO DI UN PAZZO (DIARY OF A MADMAN) is as the title suggests madness in music form, or at least in the sounds and music that is utilised. Manic shrieks, tortured voices, laughs, half heard whispers, piercing screams and hysterical crying all come together in a chaotic and mind-bending piece which runs for some 12 minutes, I would not recommend listening to this is a darkened room or alone as it would probably spook you severely. GOTHIC DRAMAS is a look into the highly original and innovative musical style of Ennio Morricone, who we all know is a composer that is not afraid to experiment and push the musical boundaries to the limit, and when he does he creates yet another style and musical genre.
John mansell 1999.

 

 

AN INTERVIEW WITH MAESTRO, ALFI KABILJO.

Alfi-Kabiljo
Can I begin by asking you about the TV series, ANNO DOMINI 1573, How did you become involved on the series, and how much music did you compose for the series?

Firstly, it was a movie called THE PEASANT UPRISING directed by Vatroslav Mimica that introduced me to the director and I got the Golden Arena for the music at Pula film festival 1979. Then Mimica made from this material and some additional material TV series ANNO DOMINI 1573. I recorded some music specially for series with choir and Symphony orchestra of Croatian radio television. I was involved in the movie by my friend Branko Lustig who was a producer, and later in LA he got 2 Oscars.
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Is it very different writing for a series on TV than it is composing a score for a motion picture?

It is just little different because for series you must write very quick and in motion picture you have more time, but there are directors who change timing in last minute, so you must be prepared to change the score at the recording. As I conduct my scores I can solve easily the new timing.

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What was your first scoring assignment and how did you become involved on it?
As a child I was in love with pictures and I was always listening to the background music. In a period from 1960 to 1970, and of course later I was known as a hit composer and the most famous Yugoslav singers have recorded my songs. Also, I got many prizes at International and Yugoslav song competitions. At year 1971 a small movie company in Zagreb proposed me to write some short movies for a talented young director Lordan Zafranović. For this recording I wrote music mostly in classical style for Zagreb Philharmonic, so it was a surprise because they did not expect from a hit composer. A lot of musician came to me asking to write some chamber music for them, which I am writing even today.

You have worked on European and American movies, does the process of scoring a movie differ greatly from country to country?
It is not a big difference from country to country. The director is important – how is his knowledge and interest in music, and of course the budget for music is important. The communication between director and composer is the most important thing in realisation of music

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SKY BANDITS was a film I felt should have done better at the box office, your score was filled with so many themes, where did you record the soundtrack, and what size orchestra did you utilise?

 
I am sorry that the movie was not a great success. I had a great symphony orchestra called National Philharmonic orchestra from London where the best London musicians play. It was recorded by famous engineer Keith Grant who also recorded The Beatles. I also used in an orchestra contrabass clarinet and euphonium.

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When you begin to work on a movie, at what stage do you like to become involved, do you like to read a script initially or do you prefer to start by looking at the film in its rough-cut stage?

I prefer to read the script and speak with director and producer. With rough-cut is a little faster, but today there are some directors who want to hear some cuts on synthesizer. It is important to trust the composer.
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Do you feel that Orchestration is an important part of the composing process, and do you carry out all the orchestrations for your film scores or does this at times become almost impossible because of the scheduling?
Orchestration is very, very important. I love to orchestrate and when I compose I hear the whole orchestra. It is convenient when you have some more time for orchestration. Just in one movie I had to give my music to orchestrator ‘ because I was writing my opera  CASANOVA IN ISTRIA, at the same time, and opera was a great success.

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What are your earliest memories of music of any kind?

My first memories are when I was listening my mother playing classical music and some contemporary hits on piano. I started to learn music with 6 years and I had wonderful professors, a famous Croatian composer Rudolf Matz and his wife Margite Matz as a piano teacher. My parents had a wonderful big collection of records, mostly classical music, but after the war I bought a lot of Soviet music and records for peanuts, and we had an American library with many movie and musicals records. This was my “university” of good music.

When did you decide that you wanted to compose music as a career?

Even with 10 years I started to compose imitating my professor, but during my study of Architecture, which I finished I realised that the music will be my profession. I was very successful with my song writing, arranging and producing for record companies and radio and television. In 1969 I wrote my first musical THE BIG RACE and in 1971 the most famous YALTA YALTA which is still on repertoire.

 

What musical education did you receive, and did you concentrate upon one particular area or instrument during your studies?

I finished the music school Vatroslav Lisinski in Zagreb. I played piano and flute and I was excellent in theory. But my best school was when I started to conduct my music for records, film music and in theatres conducting my musicals.


I understand that there is A collection of compact discs available which are all your film music, did you have an active role in the selection of what cues would be used and what scores would be included in the collection?

I have very active role in the selection of my cues, but unfortunately still there are a lot of my film music which are not on the records.

Would you say that you have been influenced by any particular composer or composers, either in film music or classical music?

Stravinsky, Ravel, Shostakovich had a big influence on me and in film music Jerry Goldsmith and Nino Rota.

What is your opinion of the lack of themes in contemporary film scores?

Even today in songs there are not many good melodies, but good themes in contemporary film music are rare. It is a question of talent and education.

 

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When you begin to write a score do you have a set way in which you approach a project, by this I mean do you begin with the opening theme and work through to the end titles, or is every movie different?

Mostly I try to begin with an opening theme. This theme if I like I am trying to use it in different arrangements.

How much time are you normally given to work on a motion picture score, or doe the time scale differ from project to project?

It differs from project to project, but it is very seldom that I have a lot of time.

 

How many times do you like to view a movie before you begin work on writing the score?

2-3 times is enough for me, because I am writing every situation in my notebook.

 

Do you perform on any of your film scores, and do you conduct all of your soundtracks?

I conduct all my music and sometimes I play piano. If there is a song I also sing backing vocals.

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Do you have a preference to what studio you record your film scores at. If so is there any reason for this?

I like a good studio with big space and with excellent technical equipment.

Is the TEMP TRACK something that you have encountered often, and do you find it helpful or distracting and have you encountered a director who has wanted you to copy the temp?

It is most of the time distracting.

What is your opinion of the increased use of samples and electronics in film music and of the DRONE sound that is now a part of the scoring process in many recent scores?

I am not happy with this. It is bad for all composers, especially young one.

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What is the largest orchestra that you have used on a film score?

 

The largest orchestra was National Philharmonic Orchestra in London, 3 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet, 3 bassoons, 4 French horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, euphonium, harp, piano, a lot of percussion, 16 I. violins, 14. II. violins, 12. violas, 10 cellos, 8 contrabasses.

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When you are writing a piece of non-film music, for the concert hall, do you find it easier to write without images and sound effects etc that are present within films?

It is easier to write when you have nice images in movies, but if not, a lot of time I find some imaginations in my mind.

 

 

My thanks to the Maestro for his time and patience.

Also Many thanks to my good friend Sergei Karov, without whom this interview would not have happened,

Thank you Sergei.

VIKING.

AVAILABLE SOON ON KRONOS RECORDS.

VIKING

 

The world and ways of The Viking have it seems been well documented by the likes of movie makers all over the world. Years ago, Hollywood took a hand in creating an image of these fearsome Norseman who seemed to always be drunk and do nothing but pillage, Rape and take what they wanted by the sword. Films such as THE VIKINGS, THE LONG SHIPS and more recently THE 13TH WARRIOR, showed the Vikings as a war like race, which of course they were as history also tells us, they also showed them as fearless explorers, not afraid to cross tempestuous seas to unknown lands. But, the Hollywood productions did tend to glam things up somewhat. VIKING which was released in 2017, is a Russian production, that pulls no punches and does not in any way glamourize the lives and ways of The Vikings. This is a gritty and more down to earth telling of a story, that is filled with adventure, violence and romance. The movie is loosely based on true events which were told in historical accounts such as The Icelandic Kings Sagas and The Primary Chronicle of the 10th Century. After the death of his Father Svyatoslav who was the ruler of, Keiv Rus, Prince Vladimir the rightful Heir to the throne is forced to retreat into exile to escape his treacherous half Brother Yaropolk, who has already killed his other Brother Oleg. Vladimir crosses the hazardous and icy seas to Sweden, where an old warrior faithful to his Father convinces the Prince to assemble a fighting force to take back his Kingdom, this force is made up of Viking Mercenaries who are led by a fearsome Swedish Chieftain. The picture is a times savage and brutal, but also is filled with stylish cinematography and stunning battle scenes. The musical score for the film was originally written by Russian composer Igor Matvienko who took two years to prepare his score, carrying out exhaustive studies on music and instruments that would have been used in the 9th and 10th Century, this extensive research added authenticity and depth to the motion picture. The trailers for the movie were scored by Irish composer Dean Valentine, who also provided music for parts of the movie itself. Valentine has become a respected and sought-after composer via his work on trailers for blockbuster’s such as CAPTAIN AMERICA-CIVIL WAR, INTERSTELLAR and AMERICAN SNIPER. But he has also worked on films and documentaries such as TIGER RAID and CLOSE TO EVIL. The soundtrack for VIKING by Matvienko received a release in Russia, but Valentines score did not appear on that release. Therefore, this is the first time the composer’s themes have been made available to collectors on the Compact Disc format.

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The score is brooding and somewhat low key in places, the composer fusing the symphonic with the synthetic to achieve a wonderfully atmospheric soundtrack, that has to it a commanding and formidable musical heart. Many of the cues are what you might refer to as slow burners, the composer gradually building the tension and employing a style that is not dissimilar to that of Hans Zimmer at times, utilising underlying strings and powerful percussive elements. The CD also contains the music from all three of the trailers that were used to publicise the movie as well as music for the trailer of Ridley Scott’s, THE MARTIAN. VIKING the score is I have to say a million miles away from the themes from Hollywood movies, but this is not in anyway a disparaging or critical observation, as the movie too, has a very different style and appearance to the Viking romps that were filmed by Hollywood many years ago. Valentines score is highly charged and dramatic, and is a mix of both music and soundscape, that are affecting and supportive within the context of the movie, underlining and punctuating the many action scenes and stunning photography. Away from the images it remains just as interesting, entertaining, potent and powerful.

John Mansell. © 2018. Movie Music International.

RAUL-DIRETTO DI UCCIDERE.

Available soon from KRONOS RECORDS.

RAUL

 

 

Composer Andrea Morricone, is in my very humble opinion probably one of the worlds most undervalued composers of music for film. Of course, when one has such a high-profile Father who is also a composer it must be difficult to gain respect and establish one’s self and style of composition. Andrea Morricone however, has managed to do this and has written numerous film scores in his own right as a film music Maestro. At times there are certain similarities between his style and sound and his Fathers, but when your Father is Ennio Morricone it must be difficult for certain composing, arranging and orchestration quirks not to influence or rub off on you. The score for RAUL DIRETTO DI UCCIDERE, is for me a delight and joy to listen to, it not only evokes memories of Italian film music of the 1960’s and 1970’s but also has to it an originality and sound that is contemporary, vibrant and innovative. The score for the 2005 thriller, is filled with dark and apprehensive passages, the composer utilising brass, woodwind, low strings and scatterings of percussion throughout to fashion a sense of foreboding and uneasy atmospheres. There is an underlying sombre sound to the score, but the composer does on occasion lighten this with the introduction of haunting and gracious sounding themes, the majority of the work is symphonic, the composer introducing electronic support at key points within the work to create the correct ambience. The score opens with the captivating piece entitled UN AMORE ETERNO, performed in the main by woodwind and strings, the theme can be at times likened to LA CALIFFA or PER AMORE which were popular scores during the 1970’s for Ennio Morricone, the composer also utilises solo piano and clarinet which are both enhanced by the use of warm and inviting strings, it is hard at times not to compare the work of Andrea with that of his Father, but although the score does contain certain stylistic similarities the style and individual sound of Andrea does shine through. The second cue DIRETTO DI UCCIDERE, which is the theme for the movie, is very different from its predecessor, it has a forceful but somewhat awkward sound initially, but soon moves into a forthright and dramatic piece, again with the string section being utilised and supported by brass and percussion which are both punctuated and underlined further by synthetics, these electronic sounds create an atmosphere that is filled with menace and fearfulness. This mood is carried over into track number three, PER NON LACIAR SOSPETTI, further establishing itself, and becoming more malevolent in its sound and stature. In cue number four, AMORE E MORTE we have the return of a more romantic style, although this is still edged and tinged throughout with an atmosphere that is uncertain and apprehensive.

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The movie RAUL-DIRETTO DI UCCIDERE, was released in 2005, directed by Andrea Bolognini, it soon gained much critical acclaim and was awarded the prize for best film at the BAFF film festival. Andrea Morricone’s atmospheric score, also attracted much attention and was nominated for the Italian equivalent of the Golden Globes. Andrea Morricone was born on October 10th, 1964. At the age of 14, Andrea had made up his mind that it was music he wanted to make a career out of, following in the footsteps of his Father Ennio. He studied at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome and graduated with a diploma in composition, at the age of 30. He then continued to study and in 1996 was successful in earning a master’s Degree in orchestral conducting. After this he continued to study and spent the next 2 years or so at THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF ST. CECILIA in Rome, where he was guided by Franco Donatoni and Azio Corghi and graduated with a master’s degree in composition. Andrea also studied under, Ivan Fedele, Ada Gentile and Irma Ravinale. Morricone, has written the scores for numerous movies and TV projects, he has also conducted some of the worlds most respected orchestras. His composing skills are not however confined to the world of cinema and television, he is a talented and innovative classical music composer, writing for chamber and orchestral ensembles. His music for film has touched many, and it is true to say that his lilting and haunting theme for CINEMA PARADISO is still his most well-known piece and one for which he and his Father received the BAFTA award for best original score, he also won a Golden Globe in 2012 for his work on L’INDUSTRIALE.

John Mansell© 2018. Movie Music International.

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